In my role as Minister of Culture, I am pleased that we have announced plans to publish a White Paper – essentially a national strategy – on the arts and heritage next year. It is 50 years since the first – and only – White Paper on the arts was published. Government’s role in supporting the arts and culture has grown and changed since then; responsibility for the arts, museums, libraries and heritage has been brought together in one Department; the National Lottery has transformed funding opportunities; and free access has helped open up our national museums to new audiences. I’d love to hear your views on how to support our arts and culture, so do feel free to visit my blog on http://dcmsblog.uk/2015/09/share-your-ideas-for-a-new-cultural-programme/ and email me your thoughts.
This month I have received hundreds of emails and letters regarding the Syrian refugee crisis. The photos and accounts we have seen are shocking and harrowing, which is why we continue to be at the forefront of the international response to the humanitarian crisis in Syria – including as the second biggest bilateral donor of humanitarian aid, having already pledged £1 billion. I know that Britain is a moral nation and we will fulfil our moral responsibilities. I have been moved by the number of people in the Wantage and Didcot constituency who have contacted me to say they would like to provide a room in their home to a refugee, and I will continue to discuss the issue with you as things progress.
In terms of the action we have taken – we have sent the Royal Navy to the Mediterranean, saving thousands of lives; we are the second biggest bilateral donor in the world to Syrian refugee camps; and have granted asylum to nearly 5,000 Syrians and their dependents since the crisis began. But I absolutely accept that we can do more, and welcome the Prime Minister’s proposal that Britain should resettle up to 20,000 Syrian refugees over the next five years. Simply taking people is not a solution to this crisis. We need a comprehensive solution that deals with the people most responsible for the terrible scenes we see: President Assad in Syria, ISIL, and the criminal gangs that are running this terrible trade in people – we have to be as tough on them at the same time.
Last month I wrote about the Assisted Dying Bill – and it is interesting to see that Parliament overwhelmingly voted down the measure when it was debated. I voted against the Bill.
As ever please feel free to contact me on any matter at the House of Commons, SW1A 0AA, 020 7219 6350 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Email is the quickest and most reliable way to get in touch, as I keep a very close eye on my emails and can reply very quickly.
Ed Vaizey MP